Productive businesses require effective relationships. Even more importantly; they require effective relationships between the leadership and their direct reports. Over 20 years working 1:1 and with groups has made this clear to Denise Miller, head of Leadership Ninja Coaching. She coaches organizations and entrepreneurs on how to improve their ability to authentically support, understand, lead, network, direct, connect, and communicate. She helps people have better relationships through understanding the formation of the mind and by becoming aware of inauthentic, disempowered thoughts and behaviors. People release the fears and misconceptions holding them back so they are free to have better relationships in all parts of their lives.
I sat down with Denise to learn more about how she helps her clients.
How do you help people communicate better?
I help people open their minds to what is between themselves and having better relationships. We hear a lot these days about the importance of increasing emotional intelligence to keep us from offending others around us. Most of us would naturally have had this sensitivity – what happened?
I believe it comes down, in part, to the way we are raised. From the time we’re young, we have people around us that have their own opinions, beliefs, fears, and preferences. They implant and impress those onto us because they think it’s our best chance to be safe and succeed. Maybe it was truly required for the world they grew up in. It’s not necessarily true for the current or next generations. As a result, we grow with a nebulous, somewhat unrealistic idea about how we can best get along in the world, the people we should like or fear, and the people we should control, AKA bully, or bend over backward to gain the approval of.
The side of this that many don’t think about is those who bear the weight of believing constant improvement is required to be safe and successful. Never feeling enough, always striving to be better. Some people believe that every sacrifice is worthwhile to become financially stable (AKA safe) and pass that ‘work ethic’ on to their children. There is a difference between a good work ethic and perfectionism; never feeling good enough. The instilled or embedded need for constant improvement to feel acceptable is a heavy load to bear – for children as well as adults. This way of being will often lead to people judging themselves, life, and others as never measuring up. It shows up as chronic stress and anxiety. You may hear internal reminders to ‘be a good girl/boy’ if you listen closely to your inner voice. As a result, some people grow up without the ability to simply be who they are, assess the other person in the moment, and be in an appropriate relationship with them.
We all want to be accepted and understood. That’s why we want to connect and communicate in the first place. Many people go around with the appearance of emotional intelligence. They’ve been taught what emotional intelligence should sound and look like. They have read an article something like; “If You Use these 12 Terms, You Are Not Emotionally Intelligent ”, encouraging people to have the appearance of sensitivity instead of finding out how they became desensitized in the first place. I help people get to the basis of how they relate and then improve from there.
Can you share an example of how you helped a client overcome their limitations?
I worked with a client recently and she was a serial job quitter. She was never satisfied and she just kept saying, this isn’t the job for me. She came to me looking for authenticity, which is hugely important. However, we don’t have much of an idea about what authenticity truly is because at first, it is simply coming from those false opinions, beliefs, fears, and preferences of those that raised us. We think that’s authenticity.
This client discovered that a point arrives for her where she knows she has to move on. She could identify it quite clearly. It was when suddenly her boss was no longer providing her the safety, security, and feelings of success that she needed to have from a job. And so she would move on. She realized that if the person she worked for was transferred or left the organization she would usually need to leave. We began working to develop ways she can support herself so she doesn’t need those indicators of success and safety to come from the current leader. Those can come from herself. That is authenticity. So far we’re doing well with this. So far she hasn’t left the job. She thought she had to. She is now noticing that she was pinning a parental role onto her bosses and that’s not what she needs in her life anymore.
How do you identify the obstacles that are holding people back?
I look at the relational obstacles people face in three different categories – I call it Relationship Diagnostics. First, we identify what is going on between me and this other person that I’d want to have a better relationship with. It could be that I want to be their leader. It could be that they’re my boss. It could be a personal relationship, a family member. If the relationship isn’t going well or if there are obstacles in the relationship, then generally they are in three areas. I use the acronym C.A.R. I consider C.A.R. a vehicle to a better relationship.
C stands for communication. How is the communication between yourself and this other person? Do you feel free to be able to speak directly? Are you communicating at appropriate times? If you think your communication style is just fine and it’s still coming from the past, loaded with those opinions, beliefs, fears, stresses, and preferences, then your communication is coming through loaded with those preconceived notions. We can all open to more direct communication and it might be clunky at first because it’s coming from a different place. However, if it wasn’t an issue they probably wouldn’t be having this problem.